With apologies to the Beatles, the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, and the state of Vermont.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chapter Thirty-One: The Kissstarter

A several days later they were still surveying the damages.

"The main building is a total loss," Luna said to Peter.  "We weren't able to save anything inanimate.  Fortunately, everybody's alright.  Even Carrie and Harry.  Carrie managed to slip out of the building and one of the firepeople rescued Harry."

"Do you have enough rooms to sleep in?" Peter asked.  "The weather's still pretty cold."

"It's a bit crowded in the other two buildings but let's say that it's a good thing that everybody's pretty friendly here."

It was a meeting with the lawyers and all the old-timers at the commune.

Luna, Dan, Sal, Nancy, Cat, Ken, Viv, and Marge were there.  So were Peter, Fred, and George.

Darren and Will were working at the bake stand and Chuck and Edgar were keeping the produce stand going.  Chuck was wearing a flowing green gown for the occasion.  Grace was running back and forth between the two stands in case anyone needed anything.

Peter was looking over the fire and police reports. "It was definitely arson.  The fire was set in several locations.  Gasoline was used as an accelerant."

"Any word on locating Barbara?" Nancy asked.

She was looking at George but Fred answered.  "There are reports that she's now filming a movie in a South American country.  I don't think she'll be returning here and this isn't a nation that we have extradition treaties with."

"There was no insurance on the buildings," Luna said.  "We lost a lot of stuff in the fire.  Between that and the theft and the money Cecil Nixon is trying to claim for damages on the woman who was injured in the produce stand, we're talking about twenty thousand dollars.  That's a lot of vegetables and pies we'll need to sell."

"We're pretty sure that phony victim was an actress as well," George said.  "The medical reports that Mr.Nixon sent us appear to be doctored and we weren't able to find a trace of this woman anywhere.  She seems to have come out of nowhere and returned there."

"I doubt that old Cecil is going to press his case at this point," Peter said.  "He hasn't actually scheduled anything with the courts.  I think this is simply more harassment."

"And if he does take you to court, you don't have to worry about lawyer's fees," Fred added.  "The three of us are pretty committed to making sure you're okay legally."

"Well, we appreciate it a lot," Sal said, "but we're still out of quite a bit of money."

"I think I might be able to help you out there," said George.  "Trust me for a week.  I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised."

"In the meantime," Peter said, "I'm working on finding a professional bookkeeper that can go over your books with a fine tooth comb.  As I said, I want to make sure everything is completely on the up and up.  I don't want to give Ms Reagon another chance to try to press charges."

"Don't worry," Dan said.  "I've been keeping meticulous track of all the sales and purchases that we've made and Sal has been double checking everything I do.  Fortunately, I had the books with me the night of the fire, otherwise they would have gone up with everything else."


Several days later the bookkeeper showed up.  He was a balding, middle-aged man with an ill-fitting suit and a dark, narrow tie.

"Peter sent me," he said.  "He told me you need a complete audit."

Luna took him to a room near the back of the house and sat him down with the books.  No sooner had he settled in than the doorbell rang again.

This time it was Roy, a farmer who lived down the end of the street.  "I came to shop at the farm stand but I just wanted to know how important the survival of your commune is to all of us," he said.

"Thank you," said Luna.

"I'll have you know that I contributed fifty dollars," he added.

Luna looked confused.  "Thank you again, I think," she said.  "But I'm not sure what you contributed to."

"To the Kissstarter," Roy said.  When Luna looked even more puzzled he said, "Don't you know about it?"

"I'm afraid I don't," Luna said.

"Oh.  Someone must have started a campaign for you."

"I guess they did," Luna said.  "But I still don't understand what a kiss starter is."

"Oh," he said again.  "It's a fundraiser.  On the computer.  People contribute money and they try to raise a certain amount.  In your case it's fifty thousand dollars."

"Wow," said Luna.  "That must have been what George was talking about when he said he could help us get some money back."

"Oh, if he's the one who started it he did a really good job.  It's just been running a few days and they've already raised over ten thousand dollars.  The deadline to raise the money is in a month and at this rate you might pass the fifty thousand mark in a few more weeks."

"Wow," Luna said again.

She was still thinking about all that money when Peter showed up.

"The bookkeeper is already here," she said.

"Excuse me," said Peter. "The bookkeeper?"

"The one you sent over," Luna said.

"I didn't send over a bookkeeper," Peter said.  "I'm still in negotiations with someone about doing the audit."

"Oh, oh," Luna said.

When they went to the back room, the bookkeeper wasn't there.

Neither were the commune's books.

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